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Mattress Firm Helps Unjunk Sleep

Furniture World Magazine


Interview with Mark Quinn, VP Merchandising, Mattress Firm

Mark Quinn explains why It’s so much more interesting and satisfying to be in the life improvement business than just selling mattresses.

Before joining Mattress Firm as its new Vice President of Merchandising, Mark Quinn already had a dynamic career in the mattress industry. Quinn co-founded luxury bedding manufacturer Spink & Co. USA, worked for Sherwood Bedding and served as Segment Vice President of Marketing for Leggett & Platt.

He’s well known for his collaborations with Mark Kinsley, CEO at Englander. These include the Dos Marcos Podcast he modestly describes as “the galaxy’s greatest bedding podcast,” and the book, “Come Back to Bed: Attract More Foot Traffic and Make People Fall in Love with Your Store.”

Furniture World asked Quinn to share his thoughts about the future of mattress retailing and his tenure at Mattress Firm.

“Coming to Mattress Firm has been awesome,” he replied. “Our people are incredibly talented. Mattress Firm understands the value of branding and how to set itself apart from the rest. As the largest bedding retailer in the U.S., we focus on communicating the value of our products and the services we provide.”

Quinn related his excitement at being able to help create messaging that explains the relevance to people’s lives of what Mattress Firm does so well. “Much of that relevance,” he explained, “comes from seeing ourselves as being in the health and wellness business.”

Need-Driven Purchases

“People don’t shop for the new fall line of mattresses,” Quinn continued. Mattresses are a need-driven item and a long-term durable good. Most folks would rather vacation in the Bahamas than spend $3,000 on a mattress.

“People don’t shop for the new fall line of mattresses,” Quinn continued. Mattresses are a need-driven item and a long-term durable good. Most folks would rather vacation in the Bahamas than spend $3,000 on a mattress.

“One thing I want Furniture World’s readers who sell bedding to understand is that Mattress Firm’s focus is health and wellness and we are working hard to craft our messages to make that clear to our customers.

“When your purpose is driven by health and wellness,” he said, “it requires a departure from product—price—promotion advertising in favor of focusing on the serious consequences of not getting enough sleep. It’s a message that just about everyone can relate to.

“Not too long ago, I gave a speech to 400 people at the National Bedding Federation Gala Awards Dinner in Telford, England. I asked everyone to look around and notice their competitors in the room. Then, I asked them to consider the idea that as an industry we are all riding out the same storm, just in different boats. That’s why we should be looking at how we, as an industry, can make ourselves more relevant to consumers. If we continue to talk about what we each do in terms of product, price, and promotion we will stay at the bottom of our customers’ shopping lists.

“Instead, we can do a better job of reorienting the conversation toward how our products help customers live their best lives by promoting health and wellness. These conversations can easily center around how better sleep can improve memory, contribute to better relationships, increase happiness, reduce anxiety, enhance work/school productivity and boost sports performance.”

Promoting Brands & Price

Furniture World pointed out there is a long list of bedding and furniture store retailers already on board with this idea. So, why are others focusing almost exclusively on promoting brands and price?

Most retailers are better at product extension than innovation. They are creatures of habit who feel comfortable tweaking practices that have worked for them in the past. Good marketing is tricky because it lives at the intersection of science and art. Creative messaging —like the idea of talking about sleep and how it makes people feel—must be balanced with the practical business goals of convincing, converting and transacting.

“I’m not suggesting that mattress retailers abandon price-off promotions,” Quinn continued. “I am saying that it’s important for mattress retailers to build value every single time they send marketing messages out into the universe to build their retail brands. Follow the examples of great branding companies like Tempur-Pedic and Apple Computer. These companies don’t go on television promoting their sales. Instead, they focus on building value. Once you’ve established value, then it’s okay to explain that everything is on sale, 50 percent off.”

Get Customers to Love You

“Whatever you decide your message should be and how you want your customers to feel, it should be communicated at every opportunity on your website, in social media, advertising and in correspondence with customers. Then grade yourself. That is what inspires people to make decisions. If you want to beat out your competition, make customers love you by showing them who you are.”

Editor’s note: For an excellent discussion of the value of emotion in branding see David Blair’s article in the July/August 2022 Furniture world issue, “The Emotional Impact of Branding” at www.furninfo.com/ furniture-world-articles/3993 ).

“Channel great home furnishing retailers who serve their communities, do excellent marketing and have fun with their customers.

“At Mattress Firm, we have some advantages of scale, but being a successful community-based store has advantages as well.”

“Emotion drives every decision in politics as well as in business. It is what inspires people to make decisions. If you want to beat out your competition, make customers love you by showing them who you are.”

Living in Mattress Limbo

“What differentiates one furniture or mattress store from another? For most I would say, not all that much,” adds Quinn. “When pressed to explain the differences, an average store owner might say that their people are different, their service is better, or they stand behind what they sell. That’s just what every other store says.

“Customers need to feel the difference between you and your competitors. Those differences should be highlighted in the way you position and market your company. If there aren’t any compelling differences, then change or even transformation is probably necessary. W. Edwards Deming, the proponent of continuous improvement, once said, ‘It’s not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.’

“It’s my view that retailers end up in mattress purgatory when they don’t stand for anything. Emotion drives decision. When consumers hate a product or a brand, there’s no way they are going to buy. When they love a brand, they will either rush out and buy it or put it on their wish list. Anything in the middle that’s ‘sort of good’ or ‘kind of cool’ isn’t compelling at all from an emotional perspective. The middle ground lacks definition and is a type of purgatory for mattress brands and mattress stores.”

Quinn went on to explain his view that “mattress brands that do it all from the bottom to the top in terms of price and construction risk falling into this middle-of -the-road category as well.

“Mark Kinsley always says that the riches are in the niches. I agree. As a mattress buyer, I’m less interested in purchasing products that are almost indistinguishable from those manufactured by other companies. I want to show brands that give me a better reason to buy from them.

“Finding a unique niche, technology or purpose is challenging. But, to avoid slipping into mattress purgatory, retailers and manufacturers can work to stand for something, be bold in their approach to the market, define who they are and find ways to not be like everyone else.”

The sleep.com website helps Mattress Firm’s shoppers “Unjunk Their Sleep.”

Three Things (Fit For Print) That Excite Mark Quinn

Product Technology: “I am excited about how companies are integrating technology into mattresses and bases to prevent snoring, track biometrics and integrate advanced heating and cooling technologies. New product innovation drives growth and helps keep us front of mind with consumers. The problem is that we need more creative thinkers in our industry.”

Data Intelligence: “Mattress Firm’s strategic partnership with SleepScore Labs allows us to equip our highly-trained Sleep Experts™ with SleepScore’s data and technology to help customers get the best night’s sleep possible,” said Quinn. “If a salesperson asks a shopper to try a pillow and it feels great, that’s one way to sell. Another way is to let them know what we’ve learned from our in-depth pillow fitting study which found that on average, participants slept 8.1 hours more per week when they were fitted for a pillow, compared to using their original pillow.

“It’s an example of using technology to give consumers a better understanding of how products outperform. It’s also part of Mattress Firm’s commitment to educating customers during the shopping phase of their purchase journey, satisfying their curiosity and interest.”

Credibility: Quinn observed that retailers need to be credible if they want their customers to feel comfortable accepting sleep and wellness advice from their salespeople. “Customers can tell within five minutes if a salesperson is just there to sell them a mattress. But when the purpose is to help solve a problem, human-to-human, they understand that focus pretty quickly as well.

“At Mattress Firm we call our associates Sleep Experts and back up that title with training. At first, the Sleep Experts title concerned me because it presents a high bar for salespeople. Then I considered that most physicians only get a few hours of training on sleep and sports coaches rarely talk about it. And, although students learn about nutrition and exercise in health class, sleep isn’t a covered topic. Mattress Firm’s Sleep Experts get over 200 hours of training so they can impart sleep wisdom to better serve their customers during in-store visits, via phone and online chat.

“Our Sleep Experts help shoppers find the perfect mattress and teach parents to have conversations with their kids about the importance of sleep. They help people understand sleep cycles and how substances like caffeine and lifestyles affect sleep quality. Mattress Firm does more than sell them mattresses. We help people ‘Unjunk Their Sleep.’

“We also push that message through www.sleep.com which is a go-to resource for sleep and wellness tips, the latest in sleep technology and even bedroom design.

“It’s a helpful tool for both our associates and our customers. It’s so much more interesting and satisfying to be in the life improvement business rather than just selling mattresses. It changes the conversation and sets us up to add more value to our customer’s lives.”

Mattress Firm’s Vice President of Merchandising, Mark Quinn and the book he co-authored with Mark Kinsley.”

Russell Bienenstock is Editor-in-Chief of Furniture World Magazine, founded 1870. Comments can be directed to him at editor@furninfo.com.

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